--- Brett Garsed Interview--- 27/Aug/07
Hi Brett, thanks for taking some time out to speak to us.
What was it like touring with John Farnham, and how did you get the gig in the first place?
- Touring with John is always an incredible experience. I got the gig by sending out demos of instrumental songs I'd recorded at my home in 1985 using a little 4 track cassette recorder. I was playing all the instruments but the main thing was it featured my guitar playing and it was a case of doing the right thing at the right time. They were looking for an young, unknown guitarist and my tape must have landed on their desk so I always tell young musicians to never be afraid to try!
You have just completed a 7 month tour with John, was it frustrating not being able to go out and promote your own music for so long?
- Not at all. Touring with John is an honour and I always learn a lot. I had to do a lot of backing vocals on that tour and because of that I'm able to do this current tour with Paul Stanley from Kiss. I have to cover the rhythm guitar and backing vocals so if it hadn't been for that tour with John I never would have developed the chops to do it. Plus I wrote a few of the songs for my "Big Sky" album while I was on the road with John so I thank him for asking me to play with him!
How do you stay sane whilst on the road?
- I love being on the road and living in hotel rooms, plus I don't abuse any substances so as long as I have a guitar with me (which I always do) I never get bored. I'm also very comfortable with my own company and enjoy the solitude that comes with being out on tour so it's all good.
Are there any tour stories you can share with us? Or is all a little X-rated?!
- No stories like that! I'm happy to say that as the really wild touring guys usually end up casualties of the rock n roll lifestyle but I'm still very healthy and positive about the whole experience. Don't get me wrong, I'm no angel and I have a lot of fun but you have to pace yourself!
You manage to mix great technique and harmonic sensibilities with catchy melodies and grooves - how have you found is the most effective way of writing an instrumental guitar piece?
- I guess it's just what I do naturally. I don't premeditate it so it's just how my songs turn out. A lot of people prefer to hear me playing more intense prog-style stuff such as Uncle Moe's Space Ranch or Planet X which is fine as they can check out those albums. For the more melodically inclined people I suppose my own music would be more suitable.
You got your first break in 1985 being featured in Guitar Player magazines "Spotlight" column - how did it feel when you realised you had a real chance of being a successful guitar player?
- I don't think I ever took for granted that I'd be successful. I was just thrilled to be in my favourite guitar magazine. But what is success? I've never achieved massive fame or fortune, something that people assume happens when you reach a certain level of proficiency on your instrument, but I'm playing the guitar, making a living and working with amazing musicians which is what I always dreamed of doing so I feel very successful. If it was about making tons of money and all that rubbish I'd have quit years ago!
Did you (or indeed, do you still) ever go through a "woodshedding" phase of trying to develop your technique? Your playing never sounds mechanical or robotic, would you say that in learning to play faster guitar styles through practising technique, there is a risk of overlooking the music purely for technique's sake?
- Absolutely, but there's plenty of amazing technicians out there that are also supremely musical so it's just a case of doing the work to get where you want to be. There's nothing wrong with being able to shred all day if that's what you want to do and if it's what excites you about music then just go for it. I love playing melodically and feel it's what I do best so even though I try to keep my chops up I'm mainly working on my musicality and phrasing, trying to make very simple ideas work well in all situations.
You were around for the heyday of shred and the emergence of great fusion players in the mid-late 80's, and then the grunge revolution of the early 90's. How did the sudden dislike for more technically orientated guitar music affect you?
- I understood it as the whole 80's thing got to the point where it had lost focus. It started well with EVH who is a great songwriter and extremely musical player, then Yngwie who is incredibly individual and also highly musical but people lost sight of that initial point and it all became about chops and who could play the fastest. Music is about individuality and having a unique identity and I think that grunge reminded us of that. It was refreshing to hear a rawer, more emotional angle for a change and I feel that technically oriented music is better off for it happening.
Who do you think is pushing the musical/guitar envelope at the present time?
- I really like Derek Trucks and also Guthrie Govan and Joel Hoekstra. TJ Helmerich is still completely undiscovered by most people and is by far the most musical two hand stylist in the world.
Your new instructional DVD, entitled "Rock Guitar Improvisation" looks like it could be a great insight into your playing style. For those who are unfamiliar with the package, what exactly can we expect to learn from it?
- I'd like to think that any guitarist could gain something from it regardless of style. I wanted to introduce people to hybrid picking in a way they've never seen before. Most people think of it as a country style but I use it in a rock context and I also use the pick with the remaining 3 fingers of my right hand which is something I feel is unique to my style, or at least it was until I started doing instructional videos. I also wanted to include a section on my approach to playing slide in standard tuning. I angle the bottleneck to achieve different triads and once again, I feel this is something that no-one other than myself has really exploited, at least for the electric guitar. I also included my take on legato style which is how I've played since the first day I picked up the guitar but I make sure I mention Allan Holdsworth as he is really the greatest exponent of this approach, even though Allan is too modest to say it! I'd never do an instructional dvd if it was just about chops. I included information about relative pitch which is essential for improvisation and also different methods for moving around the fretboard and avoiding box shapes. There's also about 40 minutes of live footage with my band so people can see how I use all this stuff in a real-world context so it's a pretty comprehensive package!
Thanks for your time, and best of luck in the future.